Full Plate Generation

Something About Cauliflower: Cauliflower & Farro

Cauliflower & Farro

There’s something about cauliflower that makes me buy it even though it’s one of my least favorite vegetables. Maybe it’s the fond and tasty memories of my grandmother’s cauliflower dishes. She would make cauliflower fritters that were dipped in an egg-based batter, then fried until they were crisp and brown. The other, somewhat healthier way she made cauliflower was with oil, garlic and pasta. Both were delicious and comforting, but these recipes don’t cut it if you’re following a low-fat, plant-based diet. I wanted to stir up those memories of my grandmother’s cauliflower with all of the flavor and none of the guilt. For this recipe I used an instant pot to cook the cauliflower. The first batch came out mushy, so I cut the cauliflower into larger florets and adjusted the cooking time and temperature. You can make adjustments based on your experience using a pressure cooker. I’m also providing instructions for making the cauliflower on the stove top if you prefer that cooking method. The garlicky flavor and creamy texture of the cauliflower is a nice contrast to the nutty bite of the farro. There’s something about this cauliflower that’s comforting, familiar, current . . . and tasty. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Cauliflower and Farro

6 garlic cloves, chopped
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 head of cauliflower, cut into large florets
¼ cup water

1 cup farro, cooked according to package directions

Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of water and the garlic. (You can use a light coating of olive oil if desired.) Cook until the garlic begins to brown. Add the fennel, red pepper, cauliflower and more water. Cover the pot and lower the heat to medium. Cook until the cauliflower is tender, adding more water if necessary. The idea is to use just enough water to prevent sticking yet having a little garlicky liquid to flavor the farro. Place the cooked farro and cauliflower into a large bowl. Mix well, breaking the florets into smaller pieces if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Instructions for Instant Pot:

Set the instant pot to saute. Add garlic and a little bit of water or olive oil and cook until browned. Add fennel seeds and red pepper and cook another 30 seconds. Add water. Change the setting to pressure cook on low. Cover and cook for 4 minutes. Quick release pressure and when safe, remove cover. Place the cooked farro and cauliflower into a large bowl. Mix well, breaking the florets into smaller pieces if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

23 Aug 2017

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

Summer Camp: Broccoli & Quinoa Salad

Broccoli & Quinoa Salad with Peanut Dressing

Where did July go? Between a visit from family, vacation and tending to my exploding gardens, I had some time away from Vegi-curious. It was like being away at summer camp. And speaking of camps . . . there are two of them when it comes to soaking grains — the soakers and the non-soakers. I have always been on the side of the non-soakers. I really never gave much thought to it until recently. I read somewhere that Basmati rice comes out much better when soaked. I decided to do a test and cooked both soaked and un-soaked Basmati rice. I couldn’t tell the difference in taste or texture. My mother’s physical therapist is from India, so I figured he could shed some light on the subject. He said that in India they soak all grains because it makes them easier to digest. Since I don’t have a problem digesting grains and soaking requires advanced planning, I’m staying in the non-soaker camp . . . except when it comes to quinoa. Quinoa has a bitter coating that protects this grain from getting eaten by birds. Many recipes recommend to rinse the quinoa before cooking. Even with rinsing I hadn’t taken a liking to the taste of quinoa. I wondered if soaking the quinoa would help. I soaked the quinoa for 30 minutes then cooked it in my rice cooker. I couldn’t believe that the once bitter-tasting quinoa now had a mellow, nutty flavor to it. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to try out some quinoa recipes. I came up with this recipe for Broccoli & Quinoa Salad out of my need to make a meal early in the day that could be re-heated in the microwave or served at room temperature. I mixed the quinoa with steamed broccoli and raw carrots. It would have been nice to add some chopped scallions. I dressed it with an Asian-inspired peanut dressing, but a simple vinaigrette or mustard-based dressing would also be nice. Simple and tasty.I can’t say how good the leftovers were because we ate the whole thing that night.

Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Broccoli & Quinoa Salad with Peanut Dressing

1 cup quinoa, soaked for 30 minutes
1 large head of broccoli cut into small florets
1 large carrot, grated
Chopped Thai basil
Peanut dressing, below

Rinse and drain quinoa. Cook according to package directions.

Steam broccoli for 4 to 5 minutes and rinse under cold water. Place in large mixing bowl with carrots. Add the cooked quinoa to the bowl. Add the dressing and stir well. Garnish with Thai basil. Serve immediately.

Dressing:

¼ cup peanut butter
3 Tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. minced ginger root
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice from ½ lime
Crushed red pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in blender and process until smooth. You can choose to simply whisk the ingredients in a bowl if you like. Set aside.

03 Aug 2017

Still Smokin’: Pasta Carbonara

Pasta Carbonara

This is a follow-up to my post on Smoked Shitake Mushrooms. The flavor of the smoked shitakes are so intense that a little goes a long way, so I’m still trying to come up with some recipes to use them up. I like to use cashew cream as a base for creamy pasta sauces and the smoked shitakes made me think of Pasta Carbonara. For this recipe I made a creamy sauce with raw cashews, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and a few smoked shitakes. (If you don’t want to smoke the shitakes, you can use liquid smoke.) I had about a half pound of cooked rigatoni pasta in the fridge that I “re-boiled” for 1 minute then added a cup of peas. I reserved some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce if needed. I stirred a few spoonfuls of the sauce into the pasta and peas. You can use as much or as little of the sauce as you like and add a few extra slivered smoked shitakes if you want a more smoky taste and some “meaty” texture. This dish came out creamy, smoky and oh, so yummy. It’s rich tasting, yet won’t weigh you down. This makes a nice meal to serve for a special occasion or you can make the sauce ahead of time and enjoy a decadent meal any night of the week. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Smoky Creamy Cashew Sauce

½ cup raw cashews, soaked and drained
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons tahini
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 garlic clove
A few slices of smoked shitake mushrooms
water

Process all ingredients in blender, adding more water to achieve desired consistency.

Use on potatoes, broccoli or other vegetables. Thin out and toss with cooked pasta.

08 Jul 2017

Some Like It Hot: Thai Stir Fried Vegetables

Thai Stir Fry

I sometimes wonder why people living in hot climates like to eat hot, spicy food. For instance, Thai food is known for its curry dishes. Thai curry pastes range from “Panang” or red which is the hottest, through “green” which is moderately hot, to “Massaman” or yellow which is mildly hot. I’ve tried them all and even the Massaman is not so mild. Perhaps if you eat hot food it makes the world around you seem not so hot. I wonder . . .

I started making my own curry pastes in an effort to reduce the amount of sodium in our diets. It takes some effort to find the ingredients and to make the curry paste, so if sodium is not a problem for you simply buy a container in an Asian section of your supermarket. A little goes a long way and you can store it in the refrigerator for months.

I picked up a head of broccoli at my favorite Amish farm stand. It had a nice crown of florets, but it also had a huge stem. I usually discard the stem, but I thought it would make a nice addition to a stir fry. I also used red bell pepper, celery, carrots and scallions in the stir fry (and no broccoli florets). This was a perfect way to use up broccoli stems which I would normally throw out. The broccoli stem’s texture is similar to that of the other vegetables, so everything cooks at the same time. I used some red curry paste and a small amount of Thai coconut milk to season the vegetables. I recommend starting with one teaspoon of curry paste and adding more according to your heat tolerance. The vegetables have a nice crunch and the sauce is intensely flavored and aromatic. This dish comes together so quickly and is so tasty that I’ll be making this on a regular basis. Why sweat it outside hovering over a hot grill when you can beat the heat inside with this Thai Stir Fry? Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Thai Stir Fried Vegetables

1 cup thinly sliced broccoli stems (use leaves if you have them)
1 large bunch of scallions (about 8)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 celery ribs, thinly sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 to 2 teaspoons Thai curry paste
¼ cup Thai coconut milk

Heat a non-stick wok on medium-high heat. Add vegetables and stir-fry until fork tender and the edges start to brown. Add curry paste and coconut milk and heat one minute. Remove from heat and serve over rice.

22 Jun 2017

Tofu Trials: Five Spice Maple-Glazed Tofu

Five Spice Tofu & Snow Peas

I bought some beautiful snow peas the other day at an Amish farm stand. When snow peas are fresh from the fields they really don’t need to be fussed over. In fact, I’ll eat a handful of them while I’m getting them ready for steaming. I only had a pint of snow peas and no other vegetables that would go with them, so I decided they would make a nice side dish for tofu. I purchased an air fryer a few months ago and like the way it makes tofu. Here are a few things I’ve learned about air frying tofu.

  • Marinating the tofu is pointless. The tofu doesn’t absorb the flavors of the marinade and the exterior does not crisp up.
  • It’s much easier and I’ve had better results just sprinkling or coating the tofu with dry spices and letting it sit for a few hours. (You probably don’t even need to wait before cooking.)
  • I also discovered that pressing the tofu makes it too dry. Since the tofu spends enough time in the fryer (or oven), pressing out the excess liquid is an unnecessary step and does not enhance the texture.
  • To achieve a glaze-like surface, I’ve had good results cooking the spiced-coated tofu until it starts to develop a crisp exterior, then tossing it with barbeque sauce, maple syrup or other “glazey” ingredients.

For this recipe, I sprinkled some Chinese Five Spice on the tofu, air fried it for 15 minutes, then tossed it with a smidgen of oil and maple syrup and continued air frying until it had a crispy, glazed surface. The meal was rounded out with steamed snow peas and Jasmine rice then drizzled with a ginger-peanut sauce. This turned out to be a simple meal that’s simply delicious. If you don’t have an air fryer, you can bake the tofu in the oven. You can use this method to come up with your own favorite tofu recipe by just varying the spices and glazes. If you like Texas barbeque, try sprinkling the tofu with a smoking rub, then coating it with your favorite barbeque sauce. Serve it with potato salad and corn on the cob. Or how about an Indian version that’s sprinkled with curry powder and coated with chutney and served with samosa potatoes or Basmati rice and peas? I’d love to hear about your own tofu trials. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Five Spice Maple-Glazed Tofu

1 lb. firm or extra firm tofu
½ teaspoon Five Spice powder
½ teaspoon oil (optional)
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey

Cut tofu into 1” pieces and add to bowl. Toss with Five Spice seasoning and allow to marinate for a few hours.

To make in an air fryer:

Arrange seasoned tofu in a single layer if possible. Set temperature to 350F and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove from fryer and place into mixing bowl. Add maple syrup and oil and toss to coat. Return to fryer basket and continue cooking for another 10 minutes or until crisp. Serve immediately with steamed vegetables and rice.

To make in an oven:

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place seasoned tofu in a single layer on parchment paper. Bake until tofu starts to dry out and brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place in mixing bowl. Add the oil and maple syrup and toss to coat. Return to baking sheet and continue baking until the exterior of tofu is glazed and brown. Serve immediately.

16 Jun 2017

Remodeling: Mushroom Gyro Wrap

Mushroom Gyro Wrap

Long before adopting a plant-based diet one of my favorite sandwiches was a Greek Gyro. I started out ordering them with the “mystery” meat that’s sliced from a slab of lamb (and who knows what else) spinning around on a rotisserie. I migrated to Gyros made with grilled chicken breast thinking that was a healthier choice. Some time ago I remodeled my Gyro with this Greek mushroom and chickpea version of the “mystery” meat which is very tasty, but requires a small amount of effort. I wanted to come up with a newer model that was scaled back in terms of prep time and calories. My latest remodeled Gyro recipe has two key aspects that I wanted to replicate, one being the distinct flavor of marjoram, rosemary and garlic and the other being the creamy tang of Tzatzki sauce. I decided to grill some cremini mushrooms (I would have used portabellos if I had them) and seasoned them with garlic powder, marjoram and rosemary.  For the Tzatziki sauce I used a combination of raw cashews (for creaminess) and soy yogurt (for tanginess). I make my own since I don’t like what’s available in the stores near me, but you can use store-bought vegan sour cream or just plain soy yogurt to keep it simple. After grilling and seasoning the mushrooms, mixing up the Tzatziki, and slicing up the tomato, lettuce and onion, I took a pocket-less pita out of the freezer only to find that it was dried out and lost it’s ability to bend without breaking. Luckily, I had some fresh (and supple) flour tortillas on hand, which made for a lighter and neater wrap. With its Greek-inspired seasonings, mushroom “meatiness”, creamy Tzatziki sauce, onions, lettuce and tomatoes this wrap has everything I want in a Gyro. Start remodeling your life today by building yourself this healthy and delicious Mushroom Gyro Wrap. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Mushroom Gyro Wraps

Makes 6 to 8 wraps

Olive oil (optional)
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced (cremini or portabellos recommended)
dried marjoram, to taste
dried ground rosemary, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
Salt and black pepper to taste

Tzatziki Sauce (recipe follows)
Flour tortillas
Lettuce, chopped
Sliced tomatoes and onions

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. (You can coat the skillet if desired.) Add mushrooms and cook until brown and most of liquid has evaporated. Season the mushrooms with marjoram, rosemary, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Tzatziki Sauce

1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
1 cup plain, non-dairy yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and minced
Salt to taste
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Drain cashews and place in container of high-powered blender. Add just enough water to cover and process until smooth. Place into a small mixing bowl along with remaining ingredients and stir. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To assemble Gyros:

Place a tortilla on piece of aluminum foil. Layer the lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and Tzatziki sauce on tortilla. Roll up forming a conical-shaped wrap and secure with aluminum foil.

Mushroom Gyro

16 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

Bowled Over: Fennel, Farro & Fagioli

Fennel, Farro & Fagioli

Have you ever been “bowled over”? The term is synonymous with amazed or astonished. When I uploaded this photo of my Fennel, Farro & Fagioli it struck me how a dish of full of beans, fennel, farro and greens could have the ability to bowl me over. This recipe hits on so many aspects of a complete whole food, plant-based meal. It’s made with beans, greens, vegetables, whole grains and uses very little/no oil and salt. Who could ask for anything more? Bowl someone (or yourself) over today with a bowl of Fennel, Farro & Fagioli. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Fennel Farro e Fagioli
Makes 4 servings
1 small onion
1 small fennel bulb
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
4 garlic cloves
Olive oil (optional)
½ tsp. fennel seeds, ground
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups white or red beans (or two 15 oz. can)
½ cup uncooked farro
3 to 4 cups water
1 teaspoon Better Than Boullion vegetable or “No Chicken” base (optional)
a few handful of arugula or other greens
Cut onion, fennel, carrot and celery into pieces. Process in food processor until finely chopped. Add garlic and pulse a few times.
Coat bottom of large saucepot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. (You could heat 2 tablespoons of water to omit the oil.) Add vegetables and cook until softened and lightly browned. Add ground fennel and red pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir to combine. Add farro, beans, water and bouillon. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Add arugula during the last few minutes of cooking.

16 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

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