Recipe Backlog Part 2 – Veggies Galore

photo of cooked vegetables
An Explosion of Freshness

This is a simple plate of vegetables – most from our farm share: spring onions, steamed potatoes, steamed collards, and roasted kabocha squash (the squash is from a local Asian grocery). When vegetables are fresh, they need little to no embellishment. All that you see here was prepared simply and barely seasoned (the lighting is also poor – in “real life” the vegetables are brighter).

photo of collards on the stove
Collards

Clean the collards in several rinses of water. Chop and steam lightly (they should retain their bright green color). Finish by “stir-frying” with olive oil and sea salt.

photo stream of kabocha squash
Kabocha

Kabocha is an Asian squash whose creamy texture and rich flavor is often compared to chestnuts. The skin is edible, although I like to peel it randomly to create pretty patterns (the skin can get a little hard during roasting; it softens if you steam it). Simply roast kabocha as you would butternut squash.

photo of spring onions
Spring Onions

These look like big scallions! Simply wash and remove any wilting or brown outer layers. I roasted these with the squash, but they are equally or perhaps more delicious when grilled.

Related Links

A Backlog of Recipes 1 – “taco” stuffed peppers

Wow! has it really been so many months since my last blog post? Although the Spring Semester and all that crazy weather really took a toll on my blogging, I somehow managed to photograph several meals and remember how I made them. This particular photo generated recipe inquiries when I posted it on Facebook. Hopefully it arrives better late than never!

heeSunday Supper - Vegan Taco Stuffed Peppers

Vegan Taco Stuffed Peppers

Way back in April I was determined to use up a bunch of odds and ends cluttering my kitchen. Whole Foods had featured gorgeous bell peppers and avocados on sale; our CSA had included two onions – one very small; we had one or two scallions, a bunch of cilantro on its last legs, a package of vegan “ground beef,” and an almost empty jar of salsa in our refrigerator. Because the weather was warming up, my mind turned to warm-weather foods. Taco stuffed peppers seemed a terrific way of satisfying both my desires.

Ingredients (feeds 2):

  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 package vegetarian ground beef
  • 1 small onion
  • spice mix (I used a tsp of cumin and a pinch of ground chili)
  • optional – frozen or canned corn
  • cilantro
  • 1 cup quinoa (I used three-color quinoa)
  • 1 scallion
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime

This is super easy. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a baking pan. Split the peppers in half and remove seeds and any white membrane. Arrange the pepper halves in the pan so that they lie flat and support one another.

Dice the small onion and slice the scallion – put them in separate piles. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and grease lightly. Sauté the onion until it softens. Crumble in the vegetarian ground beef, add the corn if using, sprinkle with spices, and stir to blend. Once everything is combined and warm, taste and adjust. Remove from heat. Spoon the filling into the peppers. Cover and bake for approximately 20 minutes (more or less depending upon how firm you like your peppers).

Meanwhile … rinse the quinoa and cook according to directions. Once the quinoa has absorbed all the water, quickly stir in the scallions, cover the quinoa again, and let steam for 5-10 minutes).

When you are ready to plate, scoop the avocado flesh into a small bowl, squeeze the juice of 1/4 lime over it, and roughly mash with a fork. Plate everything and garnish with fresh cilantro, salsa, and more lime.

NOTE: vegetarian “meats” are often salted, and conventional taco seasoning (which you can use to season the filling) often contains a significant amount of salt.

Ready for Plating
Ready for Plating

What to do with leftovers? Taco salad! I used spring mix, blue corn chips, diced avocado, leftover quinoa and taco filling, and salsa. Even better the next day – and a better photo too!

photo of taco salad
Taco Salad

Black-Eyed Pea Chili

photo of dried peas

Back in February I planned to work on two vegan items: a baked pasta and black-eyed pea chili. Baked pasta had been on my mind because I just love noodles. Thick vs. thin; short vs. long; rice vs. wheat … pasta offers so many delicious choices! In all honesty, despite the fact that Asian noodle bowls have become my default quick meal, I would be hard pressed to choose between a steaming bowl of Chinese-style, dumpling noodle soup and a plate of penne all’arrabbiata.

My desire to create a black-eyed pea-based chili, on the other hand, is owed to chef Matthew Gansert. A local gastropub had been featuring his vegan black-eyed pea chili. It was a perfect winter dish: wonderfully rich, spicy, and served with homemade tortilla chips, which formed the perfect scoop. (Don’t even get me started about his vibrant millet salad!) But earlier this year the gastropub changed “concept,” Matthew headed to Brooklyn, and with him went the chili.

Never one to sit and sulk I thought, “Well I’ll just make my own chili.” But there was a slight problem: since it had never occurred to me that I might someday need to make it myself, I never paid his chili the “right” sort of attention. That is, I simply savored it–never noting various vegetables, never peeling back its layers of flavor. So instead of trying to recreate it from memory, I decided to start from scratch. My chili certainly isn’t that chili, but it suits the eclectic weather we’ve been experiencing: hearty enough to chase away lingering snows, but bright with a spring-like mixture of fresh herbs added just before serving.

photo of chili in pot

Ingredients:

  • 1-1 1/4 cups of dried black-eyed peas
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp smoked bittersweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp chili pepper (more or less, I used marash, go easy if using cayenne)
  • olive or other cooking oil
  • can or pack of diced, stewed, whole, and/or fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup unsalted vegetable broth
  • salt to taste
  • generous handful of chopped herbs (I used scallions, fresh oregano, parsley, and cilantro)

photo of fresh herbs

Directions:

  • soak the peas overnight in plenty of water, drain and rinse when ready to cook
  • dice the pepper and onion (your choice, I went big enough that they wouldn’t fall apart during cooking)
  • smash and mince the garlic
  • heat oil in a big pot over medium heat (enough oil so that the bottom is lightly covered)
  • sauté the onion until it starts to soften, add the pepper and garlic and stir
  • add the spices and stir until fragrant (this happens quickly)
  • add the soaked and drained beans, tomatoes (with their juice), and vegetable broth, stir
  • bring the pot to a boil, adding water if need
  • cover and simmer on low until beans are tender (mine took little over an hour)
  • check your chili, if it’s a bit watery, open the lid and let some of the excess liquid boil off
  • just before serving mince one or two scallions and coarsely chop herbs, stir in just before serving or sprinkle on individual servings

bowl of chili

NOTE: I ended up not adding any additional salt because the tomatoes contained enough to for the entire pot. That said, I think I could have doubled the tomatoes and turned up the heat by doubling the chili pepper.

Related Links:

Lemongrass and Ginger Scented Butternut Squash Soup

About a month ago a friend of mine posted a link to a YouTube video called “Happy Asian Thanksgiving.” Like the guys in the video, I also joke about Asian or Japanese versions of holidays. Our 4th of July BBQs featured hamburgers and chicken teriyaki skewers grilled on a hibachi and served with rice (no buns) and cucumber salad. And I can’t imagine a proper Thanksgiving without sesame green beans and a healthy serving of rice to soak up the gravy. Not surprisingly, our Christmas dinners have always featured my Mother’s twists on American standbys. But as we kids have grown up, our celebrations have become simpler. Lately we’ve been gathering on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, and a sushi platter has taken center stage.

This year my Mom decided to make inarizushi stuffed with gingered rice, which is one of my favorites. We also decided on steamed asparagus and a simple salad. I wanted to contribute something homemade and seasonal–but with flavors that would complement the rest of the meal. I quickly imagined a butternut squash soup, pale and sweet with coconut milk, but brightened with hints of ginger, lemongrass, and red chile.

bowl of soup
Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass
  • 1 slice of ginger, about the size of 3 quarters stacked
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth (I used a cube of unsalted vegetable stock)
  • 1/2-3/4 cups coconut milk
  • red chile flakes and salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While it is heating slice the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place in a baking pan with the shallot. Bake for 25-46 minutes, testing the squash after 25 minutes. While the squash is baking, cut a slice of ginger. Slice the ends off of the lemongrass and bruise the stalk (smash it with the flat side of a knife, cut a few slashes in it). Set these aside.

photo of lemongrass, ginger, and shallot
Simple Seasonings

Baked Squash and Shallot
Baked Squash and Shallot

Scoop the baked squash into a dutch oven or stock pot. Peel the shallot and place it in the pot as well. Add 2 cups broth or water, the ginger and the lemon grass,  and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes. When everything is soft and smelling fragrant, remove the lemongrass and ginger (keep it in the soup for a stronger ginger flavor). Puree the soup–shallots and all–until smooth. I let this cool, packed it up, and finished just before serving.

photo of soup pot
Ready for Pureeing

Finish the soup by adding coconut milk to desired consistency (I used about 2/3 cup). Add salt to taste and red chile flakes for a bit of heat (I used about 1/8th of a teaspoon).

photo of coup with coconut milk
Stir In Coconut Milk

This soup was delicious and warming. Next time, however, I plan to use a kabocha squash and finish it with fine shreds of kaffir lime leaves.

Stone Soup 2: Red Lentil Soup Plus More Roasted Vegetables

photo of red lentil soup
Mmm, soup

Sunday was bitingly cold. Although we had enjoyed an unseasonably mild fall, yesterday brought a rude reminder of winter’s imminent arrival. I took stock of what we had lying around the kitchen and thought about what I could make with those ingredients (to avoid having to bike to the nearest grocery store and freezing my face and hands).

Photo of soup ingredients
Hmm, what can I make with this?

A quick survey revealed the makings of Turkish red lentil soup. The prospect of dipping into mercimek çorbası made me particularly happy because a dear friend has been on my mind a lot lately. She has been living in Istanbul for the past few years, but the lentils in my cupboard reminded me of how her eyes lit up when we discovered an authentic bowl from a local restaurant when she was back in Philly.

chopped carrots, celery, scallions, and garlic
mirepoix, improvised

For basic guidelines, I used a recipe from the Whole Foods website: Whole Foods Market Turkish Red Lentil Soup. Here is my improvised list of ingredients–Janielle, I hope you approve:

  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp marash pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cube no-salt vegetable broth (makes 2 cups)
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • salt to taste

I heated the olive oil over medium heat in my favorite Le Creuset dutch oven. Once the oil started to shimmer I threw in the cumin, paprika, and marash pepper. After a few stirs (the spices become fragrant almost immediately) I added the “mirepoix” (vegetables). I stirred that a bit, dropped the heat to low, and covered the pot. After the vegetables softened (really only a few minutes), I added the remaining ingredients except the tomato paste and salt. Le Creuset recommends not cooking on high heat, since cast iron is such an excellent conductor. I cranked the heat to medium high, put on the lid, and let the soup come to a boil. As soon as the soup started to boil I stirred in the tomato paste, dropped the heat to low, and let it simmer for about 20 min.

At this point I turned off the heat because my boyfriend and I were due to meet a friend at a local watering hole. The great thing about soup is that you can just let it sit–it’s only going to get better as the flavors develop.

Fast forward a few hours (and glasses of wine), and I’m back home and somewhat peckish despite snacking on roasted broccolini, gravlax, and spiced peanuts (Philadelphia boasts some truly wonderful gastropubs). I spy a third of a head of cauliflower, a small bagful of brussel sprouts, and–daring me to make something of them–a bag of bright red radishes leftover from an old farm share.

Thirty minutes later I am nibbling on mixed roasted vegetables and looking forward to easy dinners over the next few days:

  • brussel sprouts–quartered, tossed with sliced shallots, about a tablespoon each of sesame oil and soy sauce, then lightly glazed with about a teaspoon of honey
  • cauliflower–cut into florets, tossed with quartered kalamata olives, a tablespoon of olive oil, a sprinkling of marash pepper, and sea salt
  • radishes–quartered, tossed with a teaspoon of olive oil and a sprinkling of thyme and sea salt

photo of roasted vegetables

Coming soon: a recent hip sequence that had participants sighing, and how I am turning my birthday into an opportunity for giving. Meanwhile, safe travels and happy holidays to all!

More Veggie Love!

Last week I posted my minute-by-minute, post-gym shower and dinner timetable. That resulted in a deeply satisfying Sunday dinner of roasted autumn vegetables with quinoa. Today I thought I’d show how I used the remaining vegetables from that week’s share.

The share contents: cabbage, sweet potatoes, kale, arugula, carrots, turnips, and apples. I seem to recall eating the entire bag of arugula before my boyfriend even noticed we had it. We enjoyed the apples immensely–plain or (one of my favorite snacks) in slices with smears of almond butter, a drizzle of raw honey, and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

photo of farm share
Large box from a local CSA (we get a half share)

We tore through everything I cooked Sunday night in two days. After a night (or was it two?) of noodle-bowling it, I decided it was high time to get to work on the rest of the share. The lingering scent of cumin in my clothes reminded me of the Caribbean food stands that appear in my neighborhood during Odunde Festival. Duly inspired, I set my sights on curry and cabbage.  Not one to shy away from heat, chili-spiced sweet potato wedges struck me as the perfect complement. I rounded out that meal with more quinoa, a generous dollop of guacamole (Trader Joe’s), and some amazing “I can’t believe it’s not seafood” vegan crabcakes that my local Whole Foods sells for $1.99 a piece.

photo of the finished plate
An explosion of colors and flavors!

Curry Sauteed Cabbage:

  • half a large head of cabbage, shredded
  • 1-2 carrots, shredded or matchsticked
  • 1-2 scallions, sliced thin diagonally
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • optional – 1/4-1/2 tsp worchestershire sauce

Spray a non-stick skillet cooking spray (I like coconut oil) or pour in about a tablespoon of olive oil on it and heat over medium heat. Toss in the cumin seeds and stir until they turn fragrant. Add the vegetables to the skillet and begin stir-frying. One everything looks integrated, sprinkle with curry powder and worcestershire sauce, and stir again. Cover the skillet and drop the heat to low. After a few minutes, stir and taste. At this point, if you prefer more tender vegetables, you can cover again; if you like crisper vegetables, season to taste with salt and serve.