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Archive for the ‘Vegetarian’ Category

I was so proud.  Two beautiful butternut squash (squashes?) greeted me from the garden, and the blooms further down the vine gave the promise of more to come.  And then I pruned.  I was getting so ready for my winter veggies to get going, so last weekend I started clearing.  I pulled out the saddest looking tomato plants, caught up on my weeding, then pulled out the shears.  I was so pleased with my progress, and I noticed that one of the vines of the butternut squash could be taken out (and would then encourage quicker growth of the rest of the plant), so I snipped it.  And it was the wrong vine.  I killed any chance of more squash this season.  Tragic. 

At least I’ve made the most of the two successes – the first I simply roasted with a little olive oil until the skin gave when I pressed it with my finger.  I had plans for this squash, but they flew out the window and I ended up eating the whole thing with a spoon.  I even ate most of the skin, it was so light and papery.  Hopefully that won’t kill me.

The second squash received a more elegant treatment – this stew is adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone… 

Thai Tofu and Winter Squash Stew

1 small onion, chopped
2 Tbsp roasted peanut oil, plus extra for tofu
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (leave some seeds in if you like to sweat)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 tsp light brown sugar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 15oz can coconut milk
1 ½ lbs butternut squash, peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes
Salt
1 10-oz package firm silken tofu, cut into ½ inch cubes and fried in peanut oil (you can use it raw if you’re so inclined, but I like a little extra hard texture in this dish)
Juice of 1 lime
1/3 cup raw peanuts
¼ cup chopped cilantro

Heat oil in wide soup pot. Add onion and cook over fairly high heat, stirring frequently until partially softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, jalapeno and ginger, cook 1 minute more, then add curry, sugar and soy.  Reduce heat to medium, scrape the pan, and cook for a few minutes more.  Add 3 cups water, coconut milk, squash and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Add the tofu to the stew once the squash is almost tender, then simmer till done. Taste for salt and add the lime juice.

The recipe mentions that you can garnish this dish with chopped fried peanuts and cilantro, but I was out of both of those.  It was just as delicious without them.

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Last time I made this dish, I had some shiitake mushrooms and bok choy, and I threw them in during the saute.  This is one of those easily adaptable meals that can change with the contents of your fridge.  Enjoy!

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Leftovers for Days

Luckily, I’d gotten through most of my dinner feast preparation before the finger massacre, so I’m left with some lovely homemade leftovers to tide me over until I’m feeling up to cutting anything again.

First on the menu was baked beans (a new batch of Rancho Gordo beans just needed to be cooked!), and I found a great looking recipe in this month’s Cooking Light – it made 10 servings, so I cut it in half.  Unless you’ve got a huge crowd coming over, you’ll be fine with the half.

Sweet and Spicy Baked Beans

1 cup dry beans (the recipe asks for navy, but I used Flor de Junio beans)
4 bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup diced onion
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/3 cup light molasses
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 minced jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper 
water
1 teaspoon salt

Sort and wash beans; place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; cover and let stand 8 hours or overnight. Drain beans, reserving the liquid.  Add water to the liquid to make 4 cups.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat 5 minutes or just until crisp.  Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 5 minutes or until onion begins to brown, stirring often. Add tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring often. Add molasses, sugar, jalapeño, mustard, and red pepper; stir to combine. Stir in beans and the 4 cups of reserved bean liquid and water. Increase heat to medium-high; bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat. Cover and bake at 350° for 3 hours. Stir in remaining 1 cup water. Cover and bake an additional 1 hour or until beans are tender, but not falling apart, and liquid is almost absorbed. Remove from oven; stir in salt.

No pictures of this one to the aforementioned massacre.  You’ll just have to trust me on this one – it’s good!

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Things came to a head last weekend – we had bags and bags of tomatoes and peppers, starting to lose firmness.  It was clear that drastic steps needed to be taken.  I made this sauce in a couple of steps, so I’ve written it up as such.  You’re welcome to do the marathon pasta sauce session if you’d like…

Carrie’s End of Summer Harvest Sauce

3 bell peppers, seeded and halved lengthwise (I had orange and red bells)
1 onion, sliced into 1-inch slices
5 cloves garlic, peeled
about 4 lbs tomatoes (give or take a pound), cored and halved

First step, roast these babies up.  I’m not afraid of tomato skins (and am a bit too lazy to peel them), so I toss everything with a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper, lay them out on a large baking sheet or two (peppers and tomatoes should be cut-side down), and roast at 400° for 25 minutes or so.  If you’re anti-skin, peel the tomatoes before roasting.  Your nose will tell you when this mixture is perfectly smoky and soft and sweet.  Yum.  Allow this mixture to cool, then it will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days.

1 can organic tomato paste
One large handful fresh basil, cut into chiffonade
1/2 cup dry red wine
Salt and pepper to taste

This is where your pasta sauce preferences will come into play.  I don’t mind some larger chunks of tomato and the like in my sauce, so I just use the tomato mixture as is.  It will break down into smaller chunks as it cooks.  If you like a smoother sauce, you can puree some or all of the mixture before continuing on to the next step.  Empty your roasted tomato mixture into a large pot.  Add the tomato paste, basil, wine, salt and pepper, and simmer over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally, tasting often for spices.

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I froze a bunch of this in small containers, so we’ll have a big, flavorful shot of summer whenever we want it.

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This and bowls like it have been the impetus for me getting back in the kitchen:

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It’s a little hazy, but you can see that the tomatoes, peppers, squash and eggplant are coming at us en masse.  Somebody better cook ’em up!  Our meal last night used up just two of our wonderfully fresh ingredients – a massive squash from a friend’s garden and a huge handful of purple bush beans.

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These beauties were delicious, just sauteed in a splash of olive oil and sprinkled with salt.  They cook to green, so it’s like nature’s cooking timer.  Perfect cheat sheet.

I had this gargantuan squash that had been mocking me for days – I knew it had grown to an unreasonable size, so it wouldn’t be the best thing to eat plain.  I decided to roast it (scoop out the seeds and place cut side down on a baking sheet.  Roast at 350° until soft, about 20 minutes), stuff it with cooked rice, top with cheese and pop it back in the oven for that yummy browning.  I think I’m re-inspired.  Bring on the harvest – I can take it!

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What the Kale?

I’m stuck, people.  I’m such a fall vegetable person – butternut squash makes me swoon and roasted anything makes my heart go pitter patter.  So, I really shouldn’t have any trouble using up all this farm share kale!  What’s the problem? 

Well, the problem is that it feels like 189° in my cottage, and warm comfort foods seem a bit out of season.  I love the kale – I do.  Anything that tastes like it’s chock full of vitamins is aces in my book.  I’d just love some inspiration.  What are you doing with your kale these days?  I’m about to receive another bag-full today – advice needed, stat!

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Ah, quinoa.  I love a superfood that tastes good – I crave quinoa whenever I’ve been eating heavy meals with little nutritional value – this adaptation of Comfort Couscous brings me right back to health.  I’ve been attempting to grow quinoa in the garden this year, but haven’t had much success.  It’s a shame, because the flowers are beautiful and the grain output substantial.  Maybe the next plantings will take.

Quinoa Bake with Chard

2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup quinoa

olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 big pinch (1-2 tsp, depending on your spice preference) red pepper flakes
1 small bunch chard, stems separated and cut into 1 inch pieces, leaves coarsely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Combine the water, garlic, salt and pepper in a small saucepan over high heat.  Bring to a rapid boil.  While that’s boiling, rinse your quinoa really well.  Unwashed quinoa can be bitter tasting because it’s coated with saponin, a naturally occuring substance that acts as a pesticide – fascinating plant!  So, put your quinoa in a bowl, cover with cold water and rub between your hands for a few seconds.  Lather, rinse, repeat two more times, just to be on the safe side.  By now your water should be boiling, so add the quinoa, cover and lower the heat to a simmer.  Let it cook for about 12 minutes, until the water has been absorbed.  Your quinoa should be translucent, with quite germ curlicues.  Remove it from the heat and let it rest, covered, for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.  You could stop right here (as may be your want on hot summer days), dress the quinoa with some walnuts, leftover veggies and miso dressing and enjoy a hearty bowl of grains, or you can continue on with me to cheese land.

All still here?  I thought as much.  Preheat the oven to 350°.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, then add the onion and garlic.  Sautee until translucent, then add the red pepper flakes.  I always crush up the flakes a bit in my hand before adding them, since it releases more flavor.  Add the chard stems and saute until they’re almost fully soft.  Add the leaves and a splash of water, then cover to let it all steam for a couple of minutes.  Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, combine the quinoa, egg and chard mixture.  Mix in 1/2 cup of cheese, and taste for salt and pepper.  Spoon into a greased square baking pan (I used 8×8, I think), cover with the remaining cheese and bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is golden and the edges have started to crisp.

The end result is nutty and comforting with a little extra kick from the red pepper flakes.  The edges bring a nice crisp and toasted texture, while the middle retains that creamy quinoa feel, with the grains almost popping in your mouth.  Yum city.

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I rushed home from work in order to get started on using up our glut of produce.  I improvised a raw beet salad, popped the zucchini pie in the oven, then I went out to the garden for my new favorite pastime of caterpillar picking.  Those bums have burrowed holes in more of my green tomatoes – they’re infuriating, so I’m being vigilant and trying to smoosh them before they do any more damage.  I’ve gotten over any squeamishness I may have had at first, because after all – this is tomato war.  It’s not uncommon for a neighbor to hear faint mutterings outside their window while I curse these green wriggly bastards.

Anyway.  On to the point of my story, which is that a gathering of our neighbors started to form, Chris came home from work, and we all congregated for a nice evening.  The zucchini pie came out of the oven, the beet salad came out of the fridge, and we talked the night away.  Everyone said they enjoyed the pie, but I think it still needs some tweaking, so I won’t share that one right away.  My salad creation, however, is ready for print. 

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Community Beet Salad

A note: you may want to break out the food processor for this one if you want a quick salad.  Don’t worry about rinsing it between ingredients – they’re all going to turn red anyway. 

For the salad:

2-3 large beets, peeled and grated
4-5 carrots, grated
8-10 radishes, grated
a small handful fresh basil, cut into chiffonade
1 orange, peeled, sectioned and cut into small pieces
one large handful sunflower seeds

For the dressing:

yikes – this is going to be a bit rough, as I measured nothing.  Here goes…

about 1/3 cup good olive oil
about 3 Tbsp orange muscat champagne vinegar – I found this at Trader Joe’s – you could use another mild vinegar and some orange juice for the same effect
2 small cloves garlic, pressed
salt and pepper to taste

Here’s the instructions.  Toss, stir, serve.  Perfect for an evening you’d rather spend outside with lovely company.  Here’s a vague idea of the solar lights – I’ve not gotten any better at photographing them, unfortunately…

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Did y’all know that Marshall’s sells kitchen ware?  I went in for work clothes and left with baking supplies.  Sigh…

The rose-shaped bundt pan was a rational purchase, I swear – I have loads and loads of carrots to be used.  Usually, we just juice them and swig carrot-ginger juice for the week, but we haven’t been motivated to take out the juicer for some reason.  So, I decided to go the opposite route – dessert!

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Adapted from Epicurious:

Carrot-Walnut Bundt Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

For the cake:

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
3 cups grated carrots 
3/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts

For the icing (my version is pretty lemony, because that’s the way I like it.  If you want it to be a little more cream cheesy, lighten up on the zest/juice):

3/4 cup powdered sugar
3 oz cream cheese at room temperature
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup (or more) heavy cream

The cake couldn’t be easier – grease your bundt pan and preheat oven to 350°.  Beat the sugar, eggs and oil until pale and fluffy, then add the flours, cinnamon, soda and salt.  Fold in the carrots and walnuts and transfer to the pan.  Bake about 50 minutes or until a toothpick (or knife) inserted near the center comes out clean.  In the midst of baking this cake, we discovered a free garden window on craigslist that would fit perfectly into our front wall – I’m a little addicted to the free section, and it was first come, first served.  I had to fudge a little on the baking time so we could get out of the house to retrieve our prize.  I upped the temperature while we got ready and turned off the oven before leaving the house – it was risky, but both cake and window were perfect at the end.

For the icing, simply blend together the first 5 ingredients, then blend in enough cream to thin the icing appropriately.  I kept mine fairly thick, but you can easily play with this for some more drip action.  I realize that I’ve totally hidden the rose design with this tactic, but it was worth it.  The ridges allow for more icing to seep through.  Ingenious.

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Love carrots?  They love you too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7o56zGiRAcQ

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Ever get a song lyric in your head that just loops through on repeat, not allowing you the pleasure of completion?  How about this one:  A beautiful bunch a’ ripe baNANAs!  Anyone?  No?

A few months back, I bought a silicone mini-loaf pan, and it has seen much use.  I always had trouble with large loaves – they never consistantly cooked all the way through, they were a pain to de-pan, and we always wasted the last heels after gorging ourselves on bread for days.  The mini-loaf is ideal – split one now, and pop the remaining three in the freezer to be portioned out throughout the week.  This recipe makes enough for four mini-loaves plus extra for muffins. 

Carrie’s Day-O Banana Bread

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs 
3 or 4 (a beautiful bunch) mashed ripe bananas 
1/4 cup plain yogurt 
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut (toasted coconut is good here too, if you’re so inclined)
1 Tbsp grated lime or lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350°, and grease your loaf pan/muffin tins.  Cream the sugar and butter, then beat in the eggs one at a time.  Add the bananas, yogurt and vanilla and stir to combine.  Add the flours, soda and salt, then fold in the coconut and zest.  Bake about an hour for a full loaf, 40 minutes for mini loaves or 25 minutes for muffins.

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I love long drives and the excitement of discovering what’s new in my own city.  Most of the time on these drives, my car mysteriously ends up at Ranch 99 or some other international market.  On Saturday, I ended up at three different places.  I took a long drive down University Avenue and ended up at a little Asian market, where I slowly roamed the aisles, trying to decipher the uses and tastes of some of the more interesting ingredients.  I found some amaranth leaves, and picked them up, not knowing what I’d do with them.  They luckily found their way into a dal for last night’s dinner.

I then crossed the street to find a Middle Eastern market – I was mainly drawn there by the signs advertising whole goats.  Yikes.  It was a score, though, because I found a huge bin of green coffee beans, just ripe for the roasting!

Finally, I ended up in Clairemont at Ranch 99.  I can spend hours here, just walking around, boba drink in hand.  The produce section alone provides plenty of entertainment.  This time, though, I had a mission – on a hot sticky day, nothing sounds better than fresh spring rolls.  I picked up some rice paper, rice noodles and tofu and got to work.

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First I harvested some lettuce, basil and mint from the garden, fried the tofu until golden, and julienned some carrots and cucumber.  The rice noodles I picked up were a bit bigger than the ones I’ve used in the past, so they required a few minutes in boiling water.  Typically, thin rice noodles only need to be soaked in hot-from-the-tap water.  I bought a new shape of rice paper this time also – the package claimed that these were “good for restaurants”, so I figured they’d be good for me too!

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You can use the still-hot rice noodle water to soak one of these papers at a time.  They only need about a minute in the hot water to become pliable enough to work with.  Be sure to lay out a damp dishtowel to lay these on, as they need to be kept moist throughout the process.  Lay your rice paper down, and fill the center with as many of these goodies as you’d like – I packed each full, a little from each bowl.  Roll them up, transfer to another damp cloth, and begin again with another sheet of rice paper in the hot water.  If the rice paper rips while rolling, simply soften another sheet and make it a double wrapper.

I served these with some storebought barbequed pork buns and (embarrassingly easy to make, but) jarred peanut satay sauce.

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Delish.  And as my mother would tell you, no Asian meal is complete without a flaky, buttery, creamy fresh egg tart at the end.  This one’s for you, mom.

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