Sides

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

Don’t Fear the Fava: Asparagus & Fava Bean Salad

Asparagus & Fava Bean Salad with Quinoa

Ever since I saw “The Silence of the Lambs” many years ago, I’ve shied away from eating fava beans. It probably has something to do with Hannibal Lechter’s famous line that’s too gruesome to repeat on a food blog. A few months ago I mustered up the courage to buy a bag of dried, unpeeled fava beans. After soaking, peeling, boiling and then incorporating them into a recipe, I was left wondering what the fascination with fava beans was all about. This week’s CSA share included a bag of fresh fava beans. I peeled away the thick, spongy pod to reveal less than a cup of bright green beans. I boiled the beans for two minutes before peeling away the tough skin. A cup of fava beans is not enough to stand by themselves as the focal point of a meal, so I decided to use them in a salad with asparagus, green onions and a lemon-thyme dressing. The salad looked bright and pretty and tasted delicious. Yet, it didn’t look like it would make a substantial meal on its own. I wanted to add one other element that would round out the plate but not over-shadow the salad. My first thought was to add a grain. Farro has a nice texture and a nutty flavor, so I loaded up the steamer and waited. While the farro was cooking I thought that quinoa would make a nice pairing. As soon as the farro was finished, I steamed some quinoa. Both grains complemented the salad perfectly. I might also try serving the salad over fresh baby lettuce, arugula, spinach as an appetizer or side dish. I look forward to seeing more fava beans in my future. And If I don’t, I’ll just use fresh peas or lima beans instead. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Asparagus & Fava Bean Salad

Note: if fresh fava beans are not available, substitute cooked lima beans, green peas or additional asparagus.

1 lb. asparagus
1 cup fresh fava beans
4 green onions, thinly sliced
Lemon Thyme Dressing (recipe below)

Trim the tough bottoms from the asparagus. Cut into one-half inch pieces. Place in steamer basket set over water and steam for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and rinse under cold water. Drain and place in shallow serving bowl.

Bring a small pot of water to boil. Add unpeeled fava beans and boil for two minutes. Remove from heat, rinse under cold water and drain. Remove and discard the skins. Place the peeled fava beans in the bowl with the asparagus. Add the green onions and lemon-thyme dressing to the bowl. Stir to combine. Adjust seasonings. Let marinate if time allows. Can be served cold or at room temperature.

Serve over greens, farro or quinoa.

Lemon Thyme Dressing

¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons honey or brown rice syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, pressed
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Black pepper and salt to taste

Place all ingredients in glass measuring cup and whisk to combine.

 

31 May 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

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

Navigating Noel: Roasted Vegetables, Farro & Porcini-Cashew Cream

Roasted Winter Vegetables & Farro

Roasted Winter Vegetables & Farro

The holiday season can present it’s own set of challenges when either hosting or being invited to a holiday dinner or party. What to serve, what to bring. Who likes what, who’s allergic to this, that or the other thing. It’s enough to make you want to go away for the holidays. I’ve hosted some pretty big dinners in the past, so I understand the amount of preparation that goes into cooking for a crowd. Here’s how I navigate Noel festivities. Whether or not a host offers to make something special for me and Bruce, I happily volunteer to prepare a dish for everyone to enjoy. Bruce and I get to eat the food that makes us feel good and it’s a nice way to show others that a plant-based diet can be sumptuous and scrumptious. We were invited to my cousin’s home for Thanksgiving and I wanted to make a dish that met certain conditions.The dish should be in keeping with tradition, so it had to be made with autumnal ingredients. Since we were traveling to New Jersey, the dish had to be portable and able to fit in the car with three humans, one dog and a dog crate. Lastly, it had to make a hearty meal for me and Bruce, yet suitable as a side dish for others to enjoy. I decided to combine a few of my favorite recipes into one scaled-down feast — Sauteed Mushrooms, Shaved Brussel Sprouts, and Roasted Broccoli, Cauliflower & Chickpeas served over farro and adorned with a Porcini-Cashew Cream. It may sound like a lot of work, but it’s not any more difficult than making three side dishes for a holiday dinner. You can always opt to roast the mushrooms and Brussel sprouts with the broccoli and cauliflower. Or you could saute the mushrooms and Brussel sprouts and simply steam the other vegetables. If you have leftover porcini-cashew cream, you can use it as a condiment for bean burgers or grilled vegetable sandwiches.What’s especially nice about this recipe is that everything can be prepared ahead of time and re-warmed either in the microwave or oven just before everyone’s ready to sit down for dinner. Less time fussing over food means more time making merry with family and friends. Have a joyful holiday season and thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Roasted Vegetables, Farro & Porcini-Cashew Cream

Porcini Cashew Cream (recipe follows)

1 cup farro
Vegetable broth
Fresh or dried herbs to taste (thyme, sage, rosemary, etc.)

1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 small head broccoli, cut into small florets

1 lb. mushrooms, sliced

4 large shallots, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. Brussel sprouts, shaved

1 can chickpeas, drained
Smoked paprika

¼ cup toasted pignoli nuts

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cook the farro according to package directions, using vegetable broth instead of water and adding your choice of herbs.

Place cauliflower and broccoli in steamer basket and steam until they start to get tender. Remove and place on prepared baking sheet. Place on lowest rack and roast until the florets brown on the edges. Remove from oven and place in a large oven-proof serving bowl. Reduce oven temperature to 200F and place bowl in oven to keep warm.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until browned. Add to broccoli and cauliflower and return bowl to oven.

Add shallots to skillet and saute until softened and browned, adding water 2 tablespoons at a time to prevent sticking. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add Brussel sprouts and continue to cook, tossing frequently. Add to the bowl with the other vegetables and return to oven.

If necessary, wipe out skillet to remove any burned vegetables. Heat skillet on medium-high and add chickpeas. Cook until chickpeas start to brown. Sprinkle with smoked paprika. Add to the bowl with the other vegetables.

To serve: spoon farro onto a plate, then add roasted vegetables on top. Drizzle porcini-cashew cream on top of farro and vegetables.

Porcini Cashew Cream

½ oz. dried Porcini mushrooms
½ cup cashews, soaked and drained
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove (preferably roasted)
Ground sage, black pepper and salt to taste

Pour ½ cup of boiling water over porcini mushrooms and let sit about 20 minutes. Drain mushrooms, reserving water, and place in container of high-powered blender. Add remaining ingredients and process on high, adding reserved porcini liquid as needed to thin out.

12 Dec 2016

Thinking Outside of the Squash: Spanish Style Spaghetti Squash

Spanish Style Spaghetti Squash

Spanish Style Spaghetti Squash

A popular way to make spaghetti squash is to serve it with tomato sauce or bake it in a fashion similar to lasagna. Well, I think it’s time to think outside of the squash. I’ve been hanging onto a recipe for Fideos Rossejat for a few years. Fideos Rossejat is a paella-style dish that’s made with fried fideos (broken spaghetti). The original recipe has chicken and chorizo and I’ve also seen versions that include lobster. Besides the fact that chicken,chorizo and lobster are a thing of the past for me, I also didn’t like the idea that the fideos are fried in oil. Well, I guess there are too many aspects of this recipe that don’t fit in with my way of cooking that it didn’t make sense to salvage it. However, there is one aspect that is worth saving — the sofrito. Sofrito is a sauce used as a cooking base in Spanish cuisine consisting of garlic, onion, paprika and tomatoes cooked in olive oil. For this recipe I left out the oil and added a charred red pepper to give it another layer of flavor. I baked the squash with fresh garlic and stirred together the sofrito while the squash was in the oven. The squash “noodles” were then added to the skillet. You can serve the squash at this point, or you can place it in the oven to crisp it up a bit. Many of the Spanish restaurants we used to go to would serve thick slices of fried potatoes as a side dish, so I served the squash with some not-so-fried potato slices. It seems like you can get spaghetti squash year round in any grocery store the US, but now this is the time of the year to pick them up from a local farm stand or farmers market. It’s also time to think outside of the squash. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Spanish Style Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise & seeds removed
3 to 4 garlic cloves, pressed
Olive oil (optional)

Sofrito:

1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
Pinch of saffron
½ cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 350F. Place squash cut side up on rimmed baking sheet. If using oil, lightly coat the cut side of the squash with oil. Rub surface with garlic. Place in oven and bake until the squash is tender and shreds when scraped with a fork.(This could take about 1-1/2 hours.)

While the squash is baking, prepare the sofrito. Lightly coat a deep skillet with olive oil and heat over high heat. Add preppers and cook until beginning to char. Add onions and continue to cook until the onions turn golden brown, stirring often. Stir in the garlic and cook another minute. Add tomatoes, paste and saffron and continue to cook until the tomatoes turn dark red. Add the wine and cook until it is almost completely evaporated.

Using a fork, scrape out the contents of the squash. Add to skillet and toss until the sofrito is well distributed. Optional: Cover the skillet, place in oven and bake until it begins to brown around the edges. Remove from oven and serve.

Not-So-Fried Potato Slices

Slice potatoes 1/4″ thick. Lightly coat a non-stick electric griddle with olive oil (about 1/2 teaspoon) and set it to the highest setting. Place potatoes on griddle in a single layer and cook until they are browned on both sides. This takes a long time, so be patient. If you don’t have concerns about using oil, you can pan fry them in a deep skillet with about 1″ of vegetable or peanut oil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Nov 2016

A Little Plate of Heaven: Vegetable Fricassee

Vegetable Fricasee

Vegetable Fricassee

I remember hearing about chicken fricassee when I was a young girl. It sounded silly (actually, it was referenced in a Foghorn Leghorn cartoon) and fancy all at the same time. Many years later I had my first taste of fricassee, appropriately at a fancy restaurant. It was not the traditional creamy chicken stew, just a vegetable side dish made with julienned zucchini, carrots and onions and cooked with butter and cream. It was heaven on a plate. I don’t even remember what else it was served with (maybe fish or chicken), but the fricassee is what I remember most about that meal. So I thought about how to pull off a plant-based version that didn’t use non-dairy butter or a soy-based cream that contains oil. Lately, I’ve been using a combination of soy or almond milk yogurt and cashew cream in my recipes, so I figured I’d play around with that some more. (I like this combination because cashew cream, when used on it’s own, has a tendency to dry up. The addition of the non-dairy yogurt helps keep it fluid.) The recipe came together quite easily. The vegetables are sauteed, seasoned with herbs then finished off with the “cream”. As an afterthought, I might add a splash of dry white wine before mixing in the cream. I served the fricassee over a whole grain medley (half quinoa, half Trader Joe’s brown rice-black barley-daikon seed medley), but you could also toss it with a small pasta like orzo or gemelli. Whip up a dish of Vegetable Fricassee and get yourself a little plate of heaven. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Vegetable Fricassee

½ cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours
½ cup non-dairy yogurt
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast (optional)

vegetable broth
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, julienned
1 small zucchini, julienned
1 small yellow squash, julienned

Dried tarragon or other herb, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste

Cooked grains or pasta

Drain and rinse cashews. Add to blender container and add enough water to barely cover them. Process on high until smooth and creamy. Add yogurt and nutritional yeast and set aside.

Heat two tablespoons of broth in non-stick skillet. Add onions and carrots and cook for about two minutes. Add zucchini and yellow squash and continue to cook until softened, stirring frequently. Add tarragon, salt and pepper and cook another 30 seconds. Add cashew cream-yogurt mixture and simmer until sauce thickens.

Serve over your choice of grains or pasta.

 

 

 

09 Nov 2016

One Potato, Two Potato . . . Creamy Potato Salad

Creamy Potato Salad

Creamy Potato Salad

Sometimes life can be like a Mother Goose hand-clapping game.

One potato: We got a few red bliss potatoes in last week’s CSA share.

Two potato: eastern potatoes were on sale, so I bought a five pound bag.

Three potato: This week’s CSA box had a bunch of Yukon Gold’s in it.

Four: Better do something with all those potatoes.

With so many varieties of potatoes available these days, it’s hard to keep them straight. Some are good for baking, others make fluffy mashed potatoes and others are better suited for salads. Starchy Idaho and Russet potatoes make fluffy mashed potatoes and waxy potatoes like Red Bliss and Yukon Gold are good for salads. I decided to throw caution to the wind and combined starchy and waxy varieties to make this Creamy Potato Salad. Instead of boiling the potatoes I opted for steaming them with skins intact. (I think this is why the Russets didn’t fall apart.) My Aunt Gracie used to make a scrumptious potato salad with mayonnaise and sour cream and I wanted to capture that flavor in this recipe. I’ve been making a Ranch Dressing with cashew cream and almond milk yogurt as the base, so I went with this combination to dress the potatoes.  The dressing is seasoned with chives, parsley and scallions, but you can switch it up with any type of onion and a different herb like dill weed. Any leftover dressing can be used for green salads or as a dip for crudite. If you like the taste of hard-cooked egg you can sprinkle some black salt onto the salad. Be creative and toss in chopped bell peppers, celery or grated carrots. Served the potato salad alongside corn on the cob and marinated grilled vegetables and you have a summer supper worth clapping about. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Creamy Potato Salad

2 pounds of potatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
Ranch dressing

Place whole, unskinned potatoes in steamer and cook until potatoes are fork tender. Remove from steamer, let cool and cut into 2” pieces. Add onions and enough ranch dressing to coat potatoes. Refrigerate.

Ranch Dressing

½ cup thick cashew cream
½ cup plain almond milk (or other non-dairy) yogurt
2 tablespoons minced chives
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons minced scallions or yellow onions
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
salt and black pepper to taste

Stir all ingredients well. Chill and use within a week.

19 Jul 2016

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